Slugging third baseman Josh Donaldson has squandered more potential goodwill than any of the Yankees' recent less-than-inspiring acquisitions.
His clutch resumé in 2022 was genuinely impressive. He walked off the Red Sox twice. He drilled two homers and knocked in seven runs in a crucial two-game stretch at Fenway Park in July. His walk-off grand slam to sink the Rays might've been the single most memorable non-Judge moment of last season. On occasion, he signified the exact form of intensity he was imported to provide, and his Gold Glove-level defense was a stabilizing force.
Of course, it's no secret why he was so detested despite all of that. In most other moments, his offensive contributions were nonexistent, typified by stopping and staring at both breakers and fastballs down the middle. When it came time to punch back against the Astros in the ALCS, he was as punchless and tired as anyone, recording a single hit in 13 at-bats and striking out 10 times.
And, in an impossible-to-forget twist, he poisoned the team's good vibes back in mid-May by inciting a racially-charged incident with White Sox All-Star Tim Anderson, calling out the Yankees for their apparent unwillingness to "stand by" him (while he was very much the aggressor).
$25 million against the luxury tax in 2023 for all that, huh? Priceless. When the Yankees acquired Donaldson, many believed they were flexing their financial muscle, using their unique ability to pay someone the Twins could not to get what they wanted. Instead, they've behaved like a small-market team ever since, letting Donaldson's dollars serve as their excuse shield against bettering the offense further.
Now, Donaldson is firmly entrenched at third base again entering 2023 -- yes, partially because of his defense, but mostly because he is Brian Cashman's immovable rock. This week, he assured Yankee fans that he feels a comeback in his bones -- and, if he didn't feel that way, he'd retire instead.
Said the vast majority of Yankee fans: "...Wanna check back with us in a month, maybe?"
Yankees fans want Josh Donaldson to reconsider retirement
As Donaldson stated to The New York Post:
"If I felt like I didn’t have anything left to offer the game, I wouldn’t have reported to camp. I feel like I have [something] in the tank or I wouldn’t show up. Obviously, I feel like I do. That’s why I’m here. And I’m going to give it everything I have."- Josh Donaldson
Yankees fans will be forced into patience on Donaldson yet again; if they can get any semblance of the 127 OPS+ he put up in Minnesota in 2021, that would be a thrilling game-changer, especially when combined with his defense.
Unfortunately, there isn't much optimism -- based on the 2022 body of work -- throughout the fan base. Most of the replies to that Post article consist of people telling him to reevaluate the retirement process before Opening Day.
Donaldson's salary certainly played a large part in his offseason calculus, as well as the team's. Add in his natural hard-headedness, and it's not difficult to see why he'd base his entire persona in 2023 on proving the doubters wrong and fighting off Father Time.
Unfortunately, it seems more likely than not that he goes down looking in that battle, too.